Name: Renee Kaiman
Breast cancer stage: Metastatic Stage 4
Occupation: Quit my job when diagnosed with MBC.
Age when diagnosed with breast cancer: Originally diagnosed at 33 with early stage breast cancer. Diagnosed with METS at 36
Breast cancer type: ER/PR + HER2-
Treatment: In 2015 did FEC-D, 25 rounds of radiation, a double mastectomy and was on Tamoxifen for two years. Once diagnosed with MBC, I had 10 rounds of pelvic radiation, and 20 months on Ibrance and Letrozole. As of Sept 2019, my current treatment is Xeloda.
TELL US A FUN FACT ABOUT YOURSELF THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CANCER
I love musicals! And I am (was) a RENThead. That means that I’ve seen the musical RENT a lot of times, and slept on the street to get front row $20 tickets! I’ve also seen it in many theatres all over North America.
WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO PICK-ME-UP SONG?
I love so many songs and have created many pick-me-up playlists on Spotify. Right now the opening song Welcome To the Mouline Rouge from the new Moulin Rouge Broadway musical is my pick-me-up-song!
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOUR BREAST CANCER?
When I was first diagnosed in 2015, I found the lump myself. I waited to see a doctor after having my period. I assumed it was a blocked milk duct as I stopped breastfeeding my son a few months earlier. From seeing the family doctor to being formally diagnosed with breast cancer was a whirlwind two weeks. In 2017, when I was re-diagnosed as MBC, I had some lower back pain and pain that would sometimes radiate down my left thigh. It wasn’t very painful and was totally manageable, but I still mentioned it to my oncologist at my regular appointment. I was sent for a bone scan and then I was told that my cancer had spread and I was now MBC.
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR HEAD WHEN YOU RECEIVED YOUR DIAGNOSIS?
Both times I was diagnosed my first thoughts and my main concern were my children. When I was first diagnosed they were 3.5 years old and 1.5 years old. When I was re-diagnosed they were 6 and 4. I worried about their lives changing, and them growing up without a mom.
WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST THING SOMEONE SAID TO YOU AFTER BEING DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER?
I’ve been told so many crazy things over the past (almost) five years. When I was re-diagnosed someone insinuated to me that because I was worried about reoccurence that maybe somehow I brought it upon myself.
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF SUPPORT THROUGHOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH CANCER?
My husband and my parents have been so supportive throughout the past five years! I could not have done any of this without them. They are so helpful to me and the kids when I don’t feel well. And also support me in travelling and crossing items off my bucket/f*ck it list!
Through Rethink Breast Cancer I was introduced to Amy, another young mom who has MBC and whose kids are the same age as mine. I met her shortly after I was diagnosed with MBC and her friendship means so much to me. She’s been an amazing support and it’s so nice to have someone to talk to who just “gets it”.
I also have an amazingly supportive online community. I started a blog when my oldest child was a baby, and I grew into a well-known parenting blogger. When I received my original cancer diagnosis, I used my blog and social media accounts to share my experiences with cancer. My online community has cheered with me on good days and offered so much support on bad ones. I am so lucky to have such a large group of people continually caring about me and my family.
WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF BEING A YOUNG WOMAN WITH BREAST CANCER?
Grieving the life I expected to have and planned to have has been so challenging.
WHAT’S SOMETHING UNEXPECTED YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS A RESULT OF HAVING BREAST CANCER?
That I have a crazy skill of compartmentalizing my cancer. If I have an appointment I go to the hospital, I do what I need to do and then get on with my life. I try, as much as possible while I feel good, for cancer to be as little as a part of my life as possible. This has given me the opportunity to fill my life with so much beauty and wonderful experiences while living with a terminal illness.
WHAT WORDS OF WISDOM WOULD YOU PASS ON TO ANOTHER YOUNG WOMAN WHO HAS JUST BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH BREAST CANCER?
One day at a time. Focus on what you need to do in a given day and then move onto the next.
If you or someone you know is a young woman with breast cancer looking for a community that relates and connects with your struggle, the Rethink Young Women’s Network might be right for you. For more information, click here.